Susan Marie Molloy

Life in the Oasis


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My Christmas Reading Gala 2017: Update #1

A couple weeks ago, I set a reading goal for myself, of books I want to read before the end of this year.

So, how’s it going? you ask.

Pretty well, I reply.  Have a seat.  Pour yourself a cuppa.  Here are the books that made it to the “Finished Reading” shelf as of today:

1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War by Charles Emmerson
• This is a fascinating, history-political science work that takes the reader around the world to every continent (except Antarctica) and the major cities to show what governments and people were thinking and doing. To put it succinctly, World War I was a little bit of a surprise for most of the world. I recommend “1913” it is a lengthy book, so be aware.

The Three Daughters of Madame Liang by Pearl S. Buck
• Madame Liang, long abandoned by her husband who took up with concubines (gasp!), has three daughters who are the center of her world. She runs a restaurant for the elite in Communist China, while her daughters – Grace, Joy, and Mercy – live their lives in China and the United States. People are suspicious. People are spied upon. The lives of Madame Liang, her daughters, their husbands and boyfriends, their children and close friends are all intertwined to bring a fully rich story of youth, age, and wisdom. I recommend “Madame Liang” for its beautiful descriptive scenes, remarkable history, and well-rounded characters. Note that it is filled with overt messages about governments, change, and tradition.

The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra by Helen Rappaport
• In “The Romanov Sisters”, we get a look at the personalities of the four sisters, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia. We get a good understanding of their schooling, social interactions, familial roles, their relationship with their parents and brother, Alexi. What I found the most interesting is what the author believes is the real reason Czar Nicholas II abdicated, Czarina Alexandria’s unmistakable poor health (and how much was it, really, psychosomatic?), and the back and forth between Nicholas and Alexandria and the other royal houses of Europe in trying to find husbands for Olga and Tatiana. I recommend “The Romanov Sisters” for its thorough research, interesting photographs, and clearly written chapters and index.

The Case of the Perjured Parrot by Erle Stanley Gardner
• This is the fourteenth Perry Mason book, published in 1939. The pace moved along quite well in “Parrot,” and the twists and turns were remarkable. Just when I thought I knew who the murderer was, there was another twist to the tale. About two chapters to go, I nailed the murderer down. But there was Mason, bringing up another fact, and wouldn’t you know it? The murderer was the last person I thought. The funniest passages in the book were the back-and-forth between Mason and the sheriff at the coroner’s inquest. Is the parrot a witness? Was the parrot sworn under oath? Should we believe the parrot? Brilliant light comedy! I recommend “The Perjured Parrot” for fans of detective fiction, mystery, and Perry Mason, in general.


Here’s what still left on my Christmas Vacation reading list:

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Southern Reconstruction by Philip Leigh
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Rest in Fleece: Ghosts Tall Tales & Horror Stories by Jan Olandese
A stack of books by Bobby Underwood:
Beyond Heaven’s Reach, Lover’s Tide,The Unlocked Window, Nautica City, Dark Corridor, Galveston, Surfer Girl, The Trail to Santa Rosa, Holly, Passage to Tomorrow, The Black Dahlia, The Wild Country, The Velvet Sea, Grover’s Creek

I’ll continue to update my progress here and on Goodreads, where you can read my more in-depth reviews of these and the other books in my library.

©2017 Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.

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Date Night: At the Movies – The Man Who Invented Christmas

The past couple of days have been cool and grey, with off-and-on rain. It led my beau and me to an early show and a trip to the bookstore.

We went to see the movie, The Man Who Invented Christmas, a story about how Charles Dickens came around to writing the blockbuster novella, A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost-Story of Christmas (a.k.a. A Christmas Carol, published in 1843). Overall, the acting was good, the sets, scenery, and costumes were just right, and the story was fairly true to the events leading up to, and culminating in, the publication of the story.

Leave it to me to find the few “embellishments,” such as the availability of the penny dreadful, Varney the Vampire, or the Feast of Blood, used as a prop in the movie. True, Varney wasn’t available until about two years after the publication of A Christmas Carol, but this was a film, not a documentary, so there’s the creative license that can be overlooked.

It is a good movie, and it’s a movie kids can go see. There wasn’t any bad language, unless you consider “bloody” a swear word. (It is considered so in England.) There is no nudity, although there are bedroom scenes where Charles and his wife, Catherine, are in bed, but they are fully clothed and nothing adult goes on except maybe a peck on the check and a “Good Night.”

We see how a writer such as Dickens goes through the process of gathering ideas, falling back on experiences, and even collecting names for characters. The way it was presented in the movie was good; entertainingly good.

We ended our evening with a trip to the bookstore, where we picked up a copy of A Christmas Carol and a few other books. We need to go back today. I accidently bought a book that I bought a few weeks ago, and I need to return it.

Returning to the topic of The Man Who Invented Christmas: Did Dickens really invent Christmas? I don’t know. By the time he wrote it, England was already, albeit slowly, rediscovering the holiday. Interest in sending Christmas cards was already increasing (people had done cards well before the Victorian years), and although the Christmas tree saw its days in England as early at the 17th century, interest was reborn with its re-introduction by Prince Albert.

A Christmas Carol has never been out of print, and there are probably so many adaptations too numerous to list.  Perhaps the one thing Dickens saved was people’s awareness and sensibilities about how they treat other people, not only during the Christmas season, but throughout the year.

©2017 Susan Marie Molloy, and all works within.


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If Custer Survived The Little Big Horn

Last night, I was cleaning out my phone’s Kindle app, deleting book samples, and determining which books will be on my Christmas vacation reading list. When I came across the following book titles (see screenshot below), I saw General George Armstrong Custer‘s book, “My Life in Pants.”

Really?

That’s what I get for scanning and glossing over something like this when I’m tired—

Then again, it could be the start of a twisted fantasy history tale of Custer in the tailoring or dry cleaning business after he left the Army.

 

©2017 Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.


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Heaven on the Shelves (Part 2)

My beau and I explored a new territory for us of late – a used book store. We recognized that as soon as we stepped across the threshold, we were in a paradise of sorts. Hundreds – thousands? – of dog-eared paperbacks and slightly moldy, fragrant hardcovers sat stiffly straight or lazily askew on shelves that touched the ceiling. Giggling as our eyes bounced from topic to topic, we wandered up some aisles and meandered down others.

Yes, indeed there was that book I’ve been meaning to get, sitting at the top of one shelf, the one that’s been on my Goodreads list for well over three years. It would have to wait for now, I thought.  Maybe there’s something else here I want more.

As I negotiated a stepladder and turned the corner, a double stack of Perry Mason paperbacks revealed themselves. I picked up a couple titles in that sudden discovery.

Then – around another corner and down yet another aisle, there it was: a small, five-by-seven-inch soft, brown leather covered book with gold lettering. My heart leapt when I saw the author, and I carefully opened the cover:


The next page was even more revealing, more exciting, more mysterious:

Phil gave Mimi this Ben Hecht book for Christmas in 1925. And Christmas that year was on a Friday. This is all I know, besides all the questions: Who were they to one another? What were their surnames? How old were they? Where did they live? How did Phil present this gift? How did Mimi react? Did she read the book in its entirely? How in Heaven’s name did this gem wind up in a used book store ninety-two years later?

It’s now on the end table next to my reading chair, ready to be savored.

©2017 Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.


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Heaven on the Shelves (Part 1)

Taking a break from work one morning, my beau and I headed out on a hunting trip. This type of hunting was looking for bargains at garage sales so that we can save money in furnishing our cottage.

We spent the morning up one driveway and down others, buying a little something useful here and there. I got a copy of “The Widow of the South” by Robert Hicks for barely a song, and I was happy. One can never have, nor read, too many books, I thought.

On our way back to our cottage, my beau and I stopped at a used book store. This was our first venture there, and as soon as we stepped across the threshold, we were in a paradise. Heavens, I don’t know where to start.

At the top of one shelf, I saw a book I’ve been meaning to get, one that’s been on my Goodreads list for well over three years. Yes, that looks good, but I’ll keep looking—for now.

Rounding the corner was a double stack of Perry Mason paperbacks. That was a goldmine for me, and I picked up a couple.   All right!

Around the corner and down another aisle, there was a small hardcover book. My heart leapt when I saw the author, and I carefully turned the pages.

I wrote that book and what was in it, when I return to this subject next week. “If books could talk—”, is a memorable saying.

I say, “they do.”

©2017 Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.